Al Truman was, by all accounts, an ordinary man. A plump but pretty wife, two kids of slightly above-average intelligence, and a neat house in the suburbs were the backdrop of a life that he found mostly pleasant. He had an okay job, an okay car, an okay group of friends and an okay sex life. Most days, he felt okay. Today was not one of those days.
It all went to shit when his hairy neighbor, Hector Hargrove, called him outside to lecture him about his garbage can being left out. His god-forsaken garbage can! The spittle flying from his stinking mouth just about sent Al running for the toilet to heave up his okay breakfast. Of course, he stood listening to Hector's rant without so much as a scowl, spineless as the day he was conceived.
“Sure thing, Hector. Won’t happen again.” He said, departing with a polite wave before heading back inside to start his okay day.
His wife, Mel, was at the zoo with the kids, so Al had decided to clean out the attic. He didn’t know what else to do with himself, really - the boredom of his forties' had snuffed out any desire for fun. As he gathered the boxes he needed, to take on the grueling task of clearing out the forgotten space, Hectors ugly red face plagued him. It had been a very long time since Al had felt the way he was feeling right now - too long. The scorching anger settled deep in his belly, igniting a passion he thought he’d long lost.
He pushed it aside, determined to get on with his riveting plans for the day.
Minutes turned into hours - rummaging through discarded trophies, old ornaments and suitcases of clothes that would never fit him or Mel again. The laborious task was wearing him thin, and he was just about ready to call it a day when something caught his eye.
Underneath all of the garbage he’d cleared away, he spotted a floorboard that he suddenly remembered was intentionally hidden from sight, buried beneath the taunts of a life now far out of their reach. The most subtle markings, insignificant to the untrained eye, catapulted him into the memory of who he used to be.
Strong, smart, cunning and ruthless. Al fucking Truman.
He threw himself forward, desperately clawing at the edge that he knew would give way. It had to be in there. He knew it was in there. A faint “pop” sounded, and he jammed his fingers under the small gap that had emerged. The deepest trenches of his soul felt ablaze, warmth oozing through him, his form radiating an effervescent heat. As he spied the old shoebox, he felt the maniacal adrenaline rushing back. Until he caught sight of that floorboard, he thought his little trove of tyranny was long gone. He had erased the final burial from memory. He had to. It was the only way for his okay life to survive.
He lifted it up gently, as though it was a precious artifact - which to him, of course, it was. Opening the lid with a sudden desperate need, he poured over the contents like a man starved. They were all there. The mallard duck keychain. The scarlet lipstick tube. The silver-backed hairbrush.
Courtney. Lana. Eve.
Eve had been the most difficult to get over. Her long, raven hair that fell into her emerald eyes when she spoke, animated and open. Her soft skin. Her plump, rosebud mouth. She made Al feel like the most important person in the world, and she loved him with an intensity that he’d yet to witness since. Sweet Eve, his near downfall.
Courtney was just as beautiful, if not more conventionally so. She was tall and slender, impossibly intelligent, and hysterically funny. Their time together had been hard to forget, but eventually, her booming laugh faded from his memory.
Lana. Oh, Lana. The ever-charming, impossibly infuriating Lana. She had been the easiest of them all to forget. He liked her enough, but there was something about the way she pronounced certain words that left him fuming. SAL-mon. PEH-can. It was enough to drive even a saint to kill.
And kill is what he did. Every. Single. Time.
He killed the excitement that often accompanied romance, the sweet nothings and lazy mornings in bed. He killed the laughter he thought he so desperately desired. He killed the intimacy, and the fun, and the fucking. Boy, he always killed the fucking sooner than expected.
Al Truman was a disappointment. Not just in bed, but in all aspects of his sorry excuse for a life. They were all quick to tell him, too - any traces of love long gone.
Of course, he also killed them - but that wasn’t important. No, what was important to Al in this moment was the way it made him feel when he killed them. There was no sorrow, or regret - only earth-shattering pleasure, better than any climax he’d ever experienced.
After Courtney, he knew it was a desire that would never truly be satiated. Of course, there had been far more than just the three of them. Fifty-two to be specific. And they weren’t all women he loved or found attractive - he wasn’t a perverse bastard with mommy issues. They were all quite different, in fact. And for most of them, he didn’t even have a very good reason. Being cut off in traffic. Being served the wrong food. Being told off for leaving the garbage can out. Honestly, there wasn’t any method to who he chose. That part came in when it came to the hunt - and it was that part that excited him most. He would stalk his prey for days, weeks even, until the time was just right. Then he’d pounce, and the delicious ecstasy would leave him high for days afterwards.
The last time he’d killed was Eve. Precious Eve, who’d suspected something was wrong. Al had sensed it in the way she retreated from him, the way later her hair hid her face intentionally, the laughter long gone. She’d warned her fucking brother, who’d come after him when Eve went missing. He had evidence, or so he’d said. He stormed into Al’s home, hurling curses and demanding answers. “I’ve told the police everything! If you touch me, they’ll know it was you!”
Such empty promises made Al’s stomach curl, their desperation coating his insides in bitter poison. There was no evidence. There never was. Al was smarter than that, and called his bluff - right before slamming his head into a granite countertop and dumping his body in the incinerator at work. Little did he know that Eve’s brother wasn’t lying. He managed to shake off suspicion for just long enough to get the fuck out of the country, and he knew the moment he stepped off the plane that he could never risk getting that close to capture ever again. Eve’s hairbrush poked into him, nestled safely in his backpack. A reminder of all he was leaving behind, one of three precious mementos he allowed himself to keep. Naturally, the desire to kill was as much a part of his baggage as they were.
Three days after arriving in his new home, he’d met Mel, and two months later, Al found out he was to be a father. That moment was the closest he’d felt to the joy that killing brought him, and he knew he wouldn’t have to kill again. So many lives saved by a brand new one. Go figure.
Al’s ability to stop surprised him. It was as though he was born again, a new man coming into existence at the very same time as his little James. In the twelve years since, he’d come very close to killing again, but eventually he’d starved the predator feeding off of him.
Al put the box back in its place, sealing the floorboard with ease. He buried it back underneath everything he was planning to throw away, remembering his garbage can was already neatly tucked away into the garage already. What a shame. Maybe if Hector had just shut the fuck up, he’d have thrown it all away and moved on. Maybe.
Al felt alive with desire, the starving predator making itself known. He raced downstairs, making his way across the street. He didn’t bother knocking. He marched straight into the living room, towards the grotesque man slumped on the sofa. Adrenaline coursed through him, and he was consumed by what he knew awaited. His breath came in short bursts. He wasn’t as fit as he used to be. Hector looked over at him as though he had taken on the form of the predator, right there in the gaudy living room. Fear and desperation plastered his pudgy face.
“Are you.. Al? Are you okay?”
Al laughed, hysterical with delight. He couldn’t contain his lust even a second longer. His heart was beating so fast that he could almost hear it above his ragged breath.
It was beating too fast.
Al felt faint.
“I’m going to kill you, Hector. Just like I killed Eve, and Courtney, and fucking LAH-na. I’m going to kill you. Victim fifty-three. And you’re going to be the best one yet. Do you know why, you fucking slob? Because it’s been more than a DECADE since I’ve gotten to feel the unimaginable pleasure of life slipping away before me. Do you have any idea what it’s like, watching life leave someone’s eyes right in front of you?”
Al broke into a cold sweat, the thought alone near pushing him over the edge.
His heart squeezed in his chest, the overwhelming desire almost too much to bear.
Al fell to the floor, confused. He looked up at Hector, his vision starting to blur.
Hector looked back at him, a slow smile spreading across his lips.
“No, Al. But I’m about to.”
Hector had suffered three mild heart attacks, and he knew the symptoms well. But this one wasn’t mild. He had to call an ambulance - the camera footage wouldn’t be kind to him if he didn’t. After Al’s confession in his living room, he was sure he wouldn’t be the only one to see it.
Mel would be devastated to know she was married to a psychopath, but she was planning on leaving him anyway. She’d promised Hector almost a year after they started seeing one another. She was waiting until the time was right. He didn’t mind - he wasn’t sure Al could’ve survived the blow, and he’d actually been quite fond of Al up until a couple minutes ago. When he stormed in here, Hector had thought she’d finally done it. He was dreading the fallout, but the two of them were miserable. Al would have been happier back in America, if given enough time to recover. Mel would have been happier across the road, here with him.
Fifty-three people. Spineless Al had killed fifty-three people. After nearly a decade, he was clearly not prepared for the true toll of such a heinous existence. Hector breathed a sigh of relief that he’d escaped fate, and that Mel and the kids were spared a probable demise too.
Hector had nearly been number fifty-three, but this time, Al killed the predator instead. The ambulance wailed in the distance, its song of poetic justice a conflicting comfort to Hector. His heart broke for all that had crossed paths with Al Truman, the man with the okay life, as he realized that not even an extraordinary life would have been enough for a man who didn’t value life at all.
Mel was relieved there would be no funeral. Her days were filled with horror - not for the life she lost with Al, but for the life she could’ve lost. Hector had been shaken too, and the kids didn’t understand the true extent of what had happened, but they knew that life would never be the same. They were getting through it together though. Mel had reached out to the families of Eve, Courtney, and Lana. They grieved together, and agreed to try and live full lives in their honor. Life would be a lot fuller with the new babies on the way - she hadn’t known Hector had twins in his family - but it had been welcome news to know there would be even more new life to celebrate. They had decided to move, leaving the memory of Al firmly in the past. The kids had always liked the idea of America. There was no way to escape the pain that he had caused them - but the only escape that mattered had happened that day in Hector’s living room.
Mel felt a swift kick in her belly. Hector rushed over to feel it for the first time. The kids rushed over soon after, afraid to miss out on the excitement. They laughed together when Hector swore he felt it, knowing he was being his ever-optimistic self. She’d loved Hector for as long as she could remember. Staying with Al for the kids was a bigger mistake than she thought possible. She was waiting for the right time, but eventually accepted there is never a right time to break a heart. She was ready to tell him. She now knows it wouldn’t have mattered anyway - you need to have a heart in order for it to be broken.
In the end, the only proof that Al had a heart at all, was that it did what had to be done, so that she didn’t have to.